"The current global crisis has emphasised the need for multinational cooperation and the ability of Allied armed forces to respond to a broad range of missions in different operating environments," said Jan der Kinderen, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) MMF System Manager. "In this context, the newest NSPA multinational programme, the MMF, stands out as a unique example of successful cooperation among NATO and EU Agencies and nations, enabling participating nations to flexibly and rapidly respond to emergencies in multiple capability domains," he added.
The current global COVID-19 crisis has emphasised the need for multinational cooperation and the ability of Allied armed forces to respond to a broad range of missions
Managed by the NSPA with strong support of the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), under the ownership of NATO and operated by a multinational unit, the MMF programme will provide its six participating nations Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway with strategic tanker, transport and medical evacuation capabilities based on pooling aircraft and sharing costs, benefits and risks.
The success of the MMF relies on the excellent cooperation between NATO and the European Union Nations and agencies since the very beginning of the project in 2011," said Jan der Kinderen. "This programme serves also as a fine example of how nations can cooperate, pooling and sharing resources to get access to state of the art capabilities that would be difficult or impossible to access individually," he added.
An A330 MRTT refuelling an F-35 fighter jet over the Netherlands. The A330 MRTT uses boom and hose-and-drogue mechanisms to refuel the aircraft in the MMF nations' inventory (F-16, F-35, C-17, Eurofighters, Tornado and Gripen) and most of the other aircraft used within NATO. Photo courtesy Royal Netherlands Air Force.
While the first two A330 MRTT aircraft are ready for acceptance and scheduled to be handed over this June and July, the third and fourth aircraft are currently under conversion at the Airbus Defence and Space facilities in Getafe near Madrid and the fifth aircraft was recently flown to Getafe from Toulouse as a green aircraft. The first group of pilots and mechanics have completed a comprehensive training and are now ready to finalise their qualification to be able to operate the aircraft.
The A330 MRTT is a state-of-the-art aircraft configured for a variety of missions. In the air-to-air refuelling role, a basic fuel capacity of 111 tonnes allows replenishment of other aircraft without the need for additional fuel tanks. The maximum fuel flow rate of approximately 2,200 litres a minute is achieved using boom or hose-and-drogue mechanisms to refuel all aircraft in the MMF nations' inventory (F-16, F-35, C-17, Eurofighters, Tornado and Gripen) and most of the other aircraft used within NATO. The A330 MRTT aircraft can provide air-to-air refuelling, strategic airlift of up to 45 tons of cargo and transport up to 267 passengers simultaneously. The A330 MRTT MEDEVAC configuration allows aeromedical evacuation with six intensive care units and 16 stretchers.
MMF pilots and instructors during training. The first batch of pilots and mechanics received full training and are now ready to attend recurring training as a last step to be able to operate the A330 MRTT. Photo by Pablo Cabellos.
The MMF aircraft will be operated by the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) comprised of military personnel from the participating nations. The unit is based in two permanent operating bases, the Main Operating Base in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and the Forward Operating Base Plus in Cologne, Germany. Five of the eight MMF aircraft will be based at Eindhoven and three at Cologne. The MMU will have the capability to deploy for short and long assignments worldwide, providing the MMF nations with reliable air-to-air refuelling, air transport and MEDEVAC capabilities. To ensure a 24/7 MEDEVAC capability, one of the A330 MRTT aircraft located at Cologne will permanently stand by in the MEDEVAC configuration as of end 2021. The MMF nations will use these capabilities in support of national missions and NATO, EU or other multinational commitments..
"Since the MMF Initiative is open to new partners, we expect it will grow in the near future. Furthermore they are actively seeking cooperation with other MRTT operating nations around the world to enhance opportunities and maximize the positive synergies identified in the programme," summarised Jan der Kinderen.